As owner of The Antiques Diva® & Co - Europe’s largest antiques sourcing and touring company – I’m often asked where the best places are to buy antiques. I could go on for ages and pages about the flea markets in the south of France, the delights found in antique dealers homes in the Swedish countryside and the plethora of pieces available at the antique warehouses in Belgium. But when a client tells me they are looking for one stop shopping – that they need to maximize their time and travel dollars to shop the most amount of inventory at the best prices in the shortest period of time I send them antiquing in England. Whether you’re shopping Sussex and Kent going down along the English coast or through the bucolic countryside of the Cotswold’s the variety of decorative antiques available at accessible price points makes England an antiquers dream come true. Filling a shipping container with antiques in a mere matter of days is the name of the game for hard-core buyers sourcing antiques in England.
And while England certainly has its fair share of traditional English pieces – it’s not English antiques the majority of buyers are flocking to England to buy. What’s attracting international buyers to Britain is the plethora of inventory available from all origins. As with all sea faring nations from the past Britain has long had a tradition with overseas trading. And as such over the centuries a variety of inventory from around the globe has been carted home to England and tucked away in country houses and cottages. Add to this fact that centuries ago, the young lads and ladies were taking “The Grand Tour” and one of the prime objectives of this cultural tour was buying ‘souvenirs’ from afar so they could use these pieces as a means of discussing their travels and you’ve got a diverse assortment of antiques at home in England. And then, as if this were not enough… the Brits have been positively plundering the French countryside for centuries – and they continue to do so today. Because the Brits are the biggest buyers at the trade fairs in the south of France they tend to get the best prices and because those loveable gents pass along their bargains with low profit margins operating on a volume business you’ll find that buying French goods in Britain can actually make financial sense.
I can’t, of course, give ALL my secrets away however I can’t help but divulge a couple of details on where antiquers in the know should go to shop for antiques in England.
Newark Antiques Fair
I’m positively smitten with the flea market scene in England and the belle of the ball is the Newark Antiques Fair – held 6 times a year at a location approximately 2 hours from London. The largest antiques fair in Europe it boasts about 2500 dealers in one sensational shopping location.
The Swan at Tetsworth
If you’re looking for a wide variety of antiques under one roof – the sort of items you might see hanging on the wall in the background of a Downton Abbey episode, then make sure to check out The Swan in Tetsworth. With approximately 80 dealers you can find painted, decorative, formal, as well as kitchenalia. In essence the Swan has a little bit of everything housed in an 18th coaching inn on the edge of the Cotswolds. The fact that Swan has a fab restaurant on site is merely a bonus as antiquing works up an appetite.
One of our top UK Picks is the Lord of Antiques – Mr Spencer Swaffer, an affable antiques dealer down in Sussex, Swaffer has an A+ decorative collection that is practically guaranteed to knock your socks off. A shopping trip in the UK sans Spencer just wouldn’t be worth doing. As one of the leading dealers in Europe, he operates on a low profit margin with a high volume high turn around making shopping Chez Swaffer a pleasure. Make sure to mention The Antiques Diva® told you about him – while he treats every customer like a Queen, you’ll get the Diva Treatment when you mention us, we promise.
(Images below are all Spencer Swaffer and image credit: Toma Clark Haines)